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June 08, 2015


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Al Brophy

We're glad you're here! I hope you'll talk some more about legal history. One issue that my colleague Barbara Fedders and I are working on these days are lawyers for slaves. We're interested in whether lawyers for slaves had (or often had) a particular moral commitment against slavery and if so how that shaped their advocacy. And we're also interested in whether those who had a particular interest in the rule of law were drawn to advocacy on behalf of slaves. And we're also interested if they constituted an early public interest bar. Given that we're in North Carolina and there are lots of records here, we're focused initially on North Carolina lawyers.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the ethical and ideological issues of John Brown's lawyers. You're written a lot on Daniel Vorhees, no? He was far from anti-slavery.

Steve L.

I will be writing about Daniel Voorhees and George Sennott, both of whom represented defendants in the Harper's Ferry trials. Their politics were 180 degrees apart. Voorhees was adamantly pro-slavery and Sennott was a determined abolitionist.

Interestingly, both men were Democrats. That seems obvious for Voorhees, who was later a Copperhead during the Civil War, but it was unusual for an anti-slavery many like Sennott to remain a Democrat by 1859. He certainly baffled the Southerners, for that and other reasons.

More to come, later in the summer.


Just out of curiousity: any interest in discussing the current Title IX controversies swirling around at your university? Or is it just too much of a third rail for an academic at ground zero?

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